My Eye Surgery Experience
On May 7, I visited my local TLC Laser Eye Center for eye surgery. I began looking into eye surgery way back in December. At that time, I wore my glasses for a week, then waltzed into my local TLC and tried to get it done the next day. I quickly found out that 1) it wasn't possible for 2 weeks and 2) I couldn't ski for a couple weeks afterward. Since we were in the midst of a great ski season, I decided to schedule it for May.
I failed the LASIK-eligibility and learned I'd have to have PRK instead. The scars on my right eyeball caused me to fail. I received these scars as a boy when a friend and I blew up a .45-70 bullet with a nail and sledgehammer. I was the one holding the nail and couldn't see for the next 3 days.
In a nutshell: with LASIK they cut a flap, lift it up and shoot the laser under it. It heals quickly and is relatively painless. PRK has been around since before LASIK. With PRK, they seem to shave your eyeball and then shoot a laser into it. PRK takes a lot longer to heal, but the results are often as good or better than LASIK. Wikipedia has a more technical PRK vs. LASIK reference.
My mom flew into town for my surgery and drove me to TLC's office on that Thursday morning. It took 2 hours to prep for surgery, with most of the time spent sitting around and talking to my mom. Finally, they asked her to sit in the lobby and took me back to a waiting area. When I walked in the room, there were 2 other patients with surgery gear (funny hat and booties) and masks. They were leaning back, looking at the ceiling with their masks on and eyes closed. I quickly became the 3rd person who looked like this. Right before they started putting drops in my eyes, I remember being terrified that I might never see daylight again. At the very least, I thought I wouldn't see anything but black for the next 3 days.
Right before they called me in, the previous patient walked out and muttered "Damn, that burns." Believe me, this is not what you want to hear right before it's your turn. I was led into the operating room, sat down and received numbing drops in my eyes. Less than a minute later, I was led over to the operating table.
The rest of the procedure lasted less than 5 minutes. They taped my left eye shut and told me to stare at the red light with my right eye. At this point, they used some contraption to shave my eyeball. It was slightly painful, similar to the mild pain you feel when getting a cavity drilled with Novocaine. After each stroke, the world would ripple like a pebble thrown in a lake. After 10 strokes or so, they shot a laser into my eye for around 20 seconds. You don't actually see the laser (the red light looks the same), but you can smell your eyeball burning. Each eye only took a few minutes. My mom was able to watch the entire surgery on a television on the other side of a glass wall.
I was surprised to discover I was immediately able to open my eyes and see normally. Of course, my eyes felt heavy, so I didn't open them wide nor feel like I could. I was led back to the waiting room where I was given a Valium and sent home. I put my sunglasses on when we left and kept my eyes closed for the 5-minute drive home. After arriving at my house, I immediately downed some Tylenol PM and went to bed. It was hard to fall asleep and my eyes began tearing up. There was a dull pain in my eyes that kept the tears flowing for most of the afternoon. It took me 2 hours to fall asleep and I remember my eyes causing my nose to get stuffed up from all the tears.
When I woke up that evening, everything was blurry, but I was able to open my eyes and see better than I had previously w/o glasses. I didn't expect anything in the form of good vision and was mostly pre-occupied with trying to stop the pain (which wasn't terrible, but definitely present). I was prescribed Vicodin and started taking it on a regular basis. I was completely unable to watch TV at all that night. Viewing the computer screen was unthinkable.
The next morning, my vision was a lot better as evidenced by the tweet from my iPhone. Shortly after, my mom drove me to my eye doctor's office for a 1-day checkup. The results were surprising.
Friday night was one of the most painful. Saturday wasn't very painful, but my eyesight was very blurry. That afternoon, it was hard to keep my eyes open. Every time I tried to open them, I felt like I had to sneeze. Fortunately, I was able to watch the Nuggets game. I couldn't see players' numbers, but I was able to see Melo's last-second 3-pointer to win.
On Monday, I was able to drive to TLC for my 3-day checkup. Things were definitely blurry, but I didn't feel like it was dangerous for me to be behind the wheel. I was able to work on Monday, but I also had to increase my font sizes to 36pt and used a 30" monitor all day. OS X's Universal Access -> Zoom feature came in awful handy. That night, TV was a LOT clearer than the previous night, but it was still fuzzy.
What's it like now?
It's been almost 4 weeks and I'm very glad that I had the surgery done. I haven't felt any pain since the Sunday after surgery and I haven't had any issues with dryness. My vision does fluctuate from day-to-day. Some days I feel like I have super-hero vision and other days there's a halo around objects beyond 10 feet. According to my doctor, fluctuations are expected to continue for 6 months. I don't mind since it never gets bad enough to seem strange.
Now I enjoy not having to worry about glasses or contacts when traveling. I love waking up every morning and not having to do anything to improve my vision. I feel like I have more freedom in my life. Getting eye surgery is definitely one of the best things I've ever done.
Posted by Ale on June 03, 2009 at 01:29 AM MDT #
Posted by Mohammad on June 03, 2009 at 02:25 AM MDT #
You are probably better off with PRK than LASIK. I had lasik done about 8 years ago, and I frequently wake up with dry eyes. Another side effect of lasik is that since they flap they cut out is smaller than the pupil, you'll see clearly in the day when the iris is mostly closed, but things get blurry in the evening the the iris opens, and the eye focuses both through where the laser shaped your cornea, and where it didn't.
There are several websites around discussing this issue, since it's not very often mentioned when one is sold a lasik operation. Another issue is that the flap in reality never properly heals, so in very rare cases, it might become dislocated.
Posted by Tor on June 03, 2009 at 03:42 AM MDT #
Posted by Dave on June 03, 2009 at 08:38 AM MDT #
Congratulations on a successful surgery! May your vision become and stay perfect.
Thank you very much for sharing all the details with such honesty and completeness. It's really interesting to read and provides priceless information. Seeing the actual "user experience" is a really great angle, complementary to all the academic or medical materials on these procedures. Thanks!
Posted by Yoav Shapira on June 03, 2009 at 08:48 AM MDT #
Posted by Jim White on June 03, 2009 at 11:22 AM MDT #
I too was declined for Lasik and had to get PRK. Your recovery was smoother than mine.. I fully recovered, but you did so faster.
Interesting: I've forgotten the terminology, but the Dr said the results were perfect for the age 50+ in my future. I have one eye crystal clear for reading, and the other is eagle eye for distance. He said this may mean I won't have to wear reading glasses, which many 20/20 laser vision people have to do when they age.
Financially it was a wash.. I had expensive taste in lens/frames. Each pair costing about $500 and last two years, tops. All things being equal, I've already recouped my investment.
But the not wearing glasses is a priceless intangible.
Posted by Paul B on June 03, 2009 at 05:04 PM MDT #